Speaking as we would expect from an army chief, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said the military would not allow terrorists to ‘coerce’ the government or people into talks, and that the army had the capability of taking the war to them. General Kayani’s strong words reflect public outrage and national revulsion over Taliban attacks that left at least eight security personnel dead within the past 48 hours. The most senior officer among them was the General-Officer-Commanding Swat, Major General Sanaullah Niazi, whose vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Upper Dir. A lieutenant colonel was also killed in the attack. The army chief stressed the armed services had the ‘ability and will’ to take the battle to the terrorists and would not allow these elements to take advantage of a quest for peace.
Any talks with terrorists must take place from a powerful position; the government must not appear to be cowering before them.
Certainly, this is what seems to be happening now. Following the call by an All Parties Conference to pursue a course of dialogue to solve security issues, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has put out a set of demands which include a troop withdrawal from tribal areas and the release of all Taliban prisoners. At the same time they seem to be bent on continuing their war against the state. Dealing with a force that speaks from a perceived position of strength by accepting any of its terms or even hinting this could happen would be a disaster; quite possibly a fatal one. No state can afford to allow itself to be weakened in this fashion.
General Kayani, whose primary role, of course, is to defend the nation, has done well to speak out forcefully. His words act as a reminder of the act of folly that political players may have been moving towards. Any talks with terrorists must take place from a powerful position; the government must not appear to be cowering before them — and the army chief’s expression of a full readiness to take them on is reassuring given the developments of the past few days and the farcical terms put down by the TTP for talks, which more and more people of rationality believe it would be foolish to attempt to pursue, at least, at the present point in time.